Conquer contact evasions
We show you how
CONTACT CAN BE described as a soft, steady connection between your hands and your horse’s mouth, with him going forwards confidently from your driving aid and seeking the hands. This steady contact allows your horse to balance and find his rhythm. It should never be forced by pulling backwards but gained through your horse reacting to your leg aids. In lateral work, circles and corners, your horse will work from the inside leg to the outside rein but he still needs to be in a contact. A responsive, supple horse will find every movement easier and he’ll move more confidently from the basics to advanced work. It’s key that exercises tackling suppleness and responsiveness are included in every session to improve the connection. Contact applies in every movement and gait, including the halt. It should be included in a young horse’s basic training – it’s vital he understands it from the start of his education to avoid issues later. You’ll hear riders say, ‘ride from leg to hand’ when explaining contact.
What is contact evasion?
Evasions can be subtle so you’ll need to tune in to how your horse is feeling underneath you. It can be helpful to have someone on the ground to watch and explain what they’re seeing. The most common evasions are: dropping behind the leg, poking his nose out, lifting his head (pictured above), dropping the bit, crossing the jaw, not working in a frame (often being hollow in the back), stiffness in his body and opening his mouth and setting against the hands. When working correctly in a contact, he’ll be supple, with his hindlegs reaching
underneath his body. His head (from ears to nose) is vertical to the ground with the poll being the highest point and he’ll look soft and light. If he can maintain a contact on one rein but struggles on the other, this is likely to be a weakness on that side, which needs work before true contact can be achieved.
The rider’s role
You’ll need to ride in balance without using the hands as stabilisers and have a good position. Core strength is required, as is suppleness through the joints. Although we are all crooked and possibly find one rein easier than the other, it’s important to recognise this and compensate for any weakness. Your horse needs to trust that you’ll use the aids correctly.
Going behind the vertical is a commonly seen contact evasion